Jun 19

Think on These Things

One blessing we have at Westlake Baptist is this, we have several men and women who are gifted at teaching.  Therefore, from time to time we are going to post a devotion that they have written to hopefully encourage you as well as expose our readers to different styles of writing.  This blog was written by our Director of Missions, Linda.

Think on these things:

Phil 4: 8

How many times have you awakened in the night and are absolutely frightened or worried or consumed by something you are facing – or think you will be facing?   Many times, right?  And did it turn out as bad as you imagined?   Probably not.

This verse in Philippians is the way to quiet those worries.   Claim it!

When you are bombarded by those thoughts – and you know those thoughts in the dark are so much more scary than they are in the daylight, repeat this verse –  “Think on those things that are true,“  Find those things that you know are true!    So, when you are worried about tomorrow and a new job, or a Dr. appointment, or a new schedule for instance. Think on the things you know are true:  I have transportation.   I will have my lunch.   I am intelligent, after all I got myself hired: or I can handle this, one step at a time.  All those things that are true.   And the most important true thing, God will be right there with you guiding you through anything you will have to face.  PRAY for His peace to enfold you.

-Linda
Director of Missions-Westlake Baptist Church

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Jun 18

Why I Don’t Preach Moms or Dads on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day

As I right this, it is Father’s Day evening.  It has been a special day with my family and of getting to preach in the pulpit of Westlake Baptist Church.  One thing that those who regularly worship with us at WBC are familiar with now is the fact that I don’t preach the typical holiday messages.  The two “holiday” messages that I preach are  Christmas and Easter.  Is there anything wrong with preaching a special Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, or 4th of July message?  I would say no.  In fact, I can remember growing up and going to church and hearing those special messages on those days.  One question I have been asked for the past several years is why I do not preach such messages.  While claiming no moral authority or superiority over those who choose to preach such messages, I want to present the three reasons why I don’t.

  • No other name.  There is no other name given under heaven by which men must be saved we are told in Acts 4:12.  Of course that name Peter is speaking of is the name of Jesus.  He is the Savior of the world, and the only hope for the world.  Therefore, I want to make sure that every week I get the privilege of preaching, I exalt the name of Jesus and point others to Him.  Can you do that while preaching about moms and dads?  Yes, but I have often found in the times I have tried, that the sermons were a struggle for me to preach.  Trying to find the right balance between exalting Jesus and praising moms and dads became very difficult for me.
  • The purpose of the corporate gathering.  When we gather weekly for worship, it is to honor, glorify, and praise the name of God.  When we spend an entire service or at least a sermon speaking about moms or dads, we pull people’s focus away from God.  And while we may be able to make mom or dad feel good, we are not fulfilling the purpose of the corporate worship service.  Another aspect of this is that not everyone had a good relationship with their mother or father.  While praising godly moms or dads, we may increase the guilt of those moms and dads who feel like they are failing at being a godly parent.  We may create hard feelings in those who didn’t grow up with a godly mom or dad.  In either case, again it is pulling our mind, heart, and focus off the real reason we have gathered in the church building that day.  This doesn’t mean that we should acknowledge moms and dads.  Rather, it means that we need to keep the main thing, the main thing.  We need to encourage moms and dads to have their identity in Christ, not in being the best parent.  And we need to point those who have had a difficult upbringing to look to Christ, and not their earthly parents who are fallen and sinful.
  • Leading from God through prayer. It’s not that I don’t want to preach about moms and dads.  I like to be able to encourage people.  But my calling as a pastor is to pray and see what God says the people need to hear, not what would make me popular with them.  Should call ever impress on me that I need to preach on one of the non-biblical holidays, I pray that I will listen and be lead of the Spirit and be obedient to the prompting.  But week after week, I seek to glorify God in my life and in my preaching.  For those preachers who preach the special holiday messages, as long as God leads you to do it, be faithful to Him.  But for those who do it because that is what the people expect, let us remember that we will give an account for how we shepherded the souls of those under our care (Heb. 10:38).

I want to close this blog by saying that I thank God for godly moms and dads.  When you focus your life on pleasing and living for God, and being obedient to Him; you will teach a better sermon with your life than I could ever preach.  To those who are struggling under guilt and frustration because they are living up to the standard that God calls you to; confess it to God and seek His direction.  We are all fallen sinners in need of a Savior.  Rest and trust in Him, and seek to be obedient to Him in all you do, and God will be pleased.  To those who didn’t have a great relationship with a parent growing up; allow your pain and their imperfections as a parent to point you to the all-sufficient, perfect God.  Your earthly parents may let you down, but our Heavenly Father never will!

God bless you, happy Father’s day to all the dads.

Pastor Justin

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Jun 11

Praying in Faith

In yesterday’s message from our series in the Gospel of Mark, we spoke about praying in faith and what exactly does that mean?  Since yesterday, several people have reached out because that part wasn’t included completely in the sermon notes provided.  Therefore, I have decided to simply post that point specifically from yesterday’s message here.  I hope that it is a help.

The text we studied yesterday was Mark 11:12-26.  This was an application point of the text.  Below is the text from yesterday on praying in faith:

  • Praying in faith means: We want to be careful when we talk about praying in faith. We don’t want to give the idea that if we just believe in something enough that God will give it to us.  So what does praying in faith mean?  First, it means having a relationship with God.  For God to hear and act on our prayers, we must have a relationship with Him that is based on His grace and faith.  To pray “Our Father”, God must be our spiritual father.  And regardless of what some people say, not everyone is a child of God.  It is only those who have confessed their sin, trusted in God’s grace through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save them, that are truly God’s children.  Second, praying in faith means we are praying the Word of God.  Many people say, I don’t know what the will of God for me is, while never opening their Bible.  The Bible is the mind, heart, and will of God.  Every time we open the Word, we should be praying through what we are reading. How do you do that?  To pray the Word of God when you read simply ask yourself a few questions.  First, what do I learn about God from reading this verse of this passage.  Praise Him for who He is.  Second, is there any sin that God is pointing out in my life through this verse or passage?  Is there something that you should be doing that you aren’t?  Is there something you are doing that you shouldn’t be?  Confess it.  Finally, ask for God to help you be obedient to His Word.  What is that passage telling you to do in order to glorify God and point others to Him?  Let me demonstrate it for you very quickly using our passage.  In this passage we learn that Jesus understands what we go through, because He went through it in that He was hungry.  We learn that God takes sin seriously, He is a Judge, but He also offers grace and forgiveness to those who seek it.  Are we guilty of living a life that doesn’t honor God, are we not intentional about our spiritual growth?  Finally, ask the Lord to help you grow in your faith and for our church to be a place known for prayer, forgiveness, and a place where people can find hope.  Finally, praying in faith means praying according to the will of God.  This again is connected to the previous point.  To pray according to God’s will means we must be in God’s Word.  We must ask God, how are you asking me to apply this text to my life?  Praying in faith doesn’t mean that God will give us everything we ask Him for.  But when we pray in faith, we are trusting not only in His power to give us what we are asking for, but we are also trusting in His wisdom to give us what we need.

 

Pastor Justin

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Jun 07

But I Didn’t Mean To

Has anyone ever said the phrase, “but I didn’t mean to” to you after they hurt you or did something that had unintended consequences?  I believe every parent has probably heard that on at least one occasion from their child.  Of course it doesn’t change the fact that it did happen, and now it has to be dealt with.  But what if there was a way, where we could be diligent and prudent about the actions we take or the words that we speak?  How much pain could we spare others and ourselves?

These were just some of the thoughts that ran through my head as I read Proverbs 7 this morning.  Solomon here is writing to his children and encouraging them to listen to his words of instruction, keep them in their mind, and watch how they live.  In verse 4-5 Solomon says, “Say unto wisdom, ‘Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman’: that they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.”  Solomon is telling his children, “listen to what I am telling you and understand what I am teaching you.”  Solomon as any parent should do, was trying to keep his children from making the same mistakes he had made in his life.  Solomon is known as the wisest person to ever live.  People came from other countries just to hear Solomon’s wisdom.  Yet Solomon is also known for, “Solomon loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1).  Now understand what that verse means.  It isn’t talking about not loving people other different races or nationalities.  Rather, it is the recording of Solomon’s downfall because he ignored God’s instructions.  God had told the Israelites not to marry outside of the Jewish race, because the other nations didn’t know God or worship God.  God knew that if they married outside of the faith, the Israelites would have their heart pulled away from God, and they would worship false gods.  For the record, they didn’t listen and God was proven right as Israel forsook the one, true God and chased after many idols.  The same instruction is given to Christians in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 6:14 when it says, “do not be unequally yoked.”  Again this is not saying you can only marry your race as sadly many have misapplied this verse.  It is Paul saying exactly what God had said to Israel.  If you are a believer, you should only marry another believer.  The reason is the same as God told Israel, if you marry outside of the faith, instead of you influencing them, there is a greater chance of them influencing you and pulling you away from God.  Solomon knew this all too well, and so in Proverbs 7 he is telling his children, “please learn from my mistakes.  Listen to me and save yourself a lot of heart ache.”  Unfortunately, Solomon’s sons followed what Solomon did rather than listening to what he said.  And by the way, so do our children.  They are more likely to repeat what they see than they are to simply do what we say.  But that is a whole other topic.  How does all of this apply to us?

This really starts to come into focus in verses 7-8 which say, “And (I) beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house.”  Whether Solomon is recounting his personal history or just telling a story to illustrate his point can be debated, but the point is the same.  There was a man who went out for a walk.  We don’t know why he went out for a walk.  Maybe he just needed to clear his head, or maybe he couldn’t sleep, or maybe he just wanted to go for a walk.  It doesn’t matter why he went out for the walk, what matters is because he didn’t exercise wisdom and possess understanding, he fell into sin.  I’m sure when it was all over he thought to himself, “how did this happen?  But I didn’t mean for this to happen.”  But what was done is done.  There is no going back, there is no changing it. Now all that is left is to deal with the consequences.  We can identify with this story can’t we?  I’m not saying you went out for a walk and just happened to find your way into a prostitute’s house.  I’m saying, you were going about your business of life, and all of the sudden you found yourself in a compromising position.  You found yourself saying and doing things that you never intended to do.  You have regrets, you feel ashamed, and you are wondering to yourself how did this happen?  How do we deal with this when we find ourself doing something sinful, even though we didn’t have the intention to do so?

Remember the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of the cure”?  That certainly applies here.  The best way to avoid unintentionally falling into sin, is to be wise about what you are doing.  In Proverbs 4 it tells us to guard our heart, because out of it flow the issues of life.  Solomon is saying, guard what goes into your heart, because what goes into your heart will eventually come out through your mouth or your life.  In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the devil and his schemes.  In Galatians 6, we are told to bear and share one another’s burdens.  This speaks of having accountability.  If we guard our heart, are intentional about putting on the whole armor of God each day, and we have relationships with people who will hold us accountable for our words and our actions; then we are less likely to fall into sin unintentionally.  That doesn’t mean you will be perfect.  We will always sin, but we can certainly through dependence on God lessen how often we fall into sin.  But what if you don’t have those things or didn’t do them and you find yourself in a potentially compromising position?  Here is the good news, God did not leave you alone.  When you were saved, He gave you the Holy Spirit to live inside of you to help you.  And in  1 Corinthians 10:13 it says, “There is no temptation taken you but such as common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  I can’t go any further than this; the Bible does not say “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  Rather it says, “you will not be tempted above what you can handle; and when you are tempted, God will make a way of escape so that you don’t have to give in to that sin.”  If you find yourself in a compromising place, stop and pray asking God, how do I get out of this without sinning?  And when He reveals it to you, take it!  But what if you didn’t take preventative steps and you didn’t take God’s way out?  What if you fell into sin, even though you didn’t intend to?  It’s simple, confess it and repent of it!  Don’t act like it didn’t happen.  Don’t act like it isn’t a big deal.  Confess the sin to God, praise Him for His blood that gives forgiveness of sin, and ask Him to help you learn from this and not to repeat it.

Sin is going to happen.  It is a fact of life ever since the Garden of Eden.  We can’t pretend that we live in a perfect world or that we are never tempted to sin.  But God has given us ways that we can manage it and not give in to our temptations as we depend on Him.  And that is what it really comes down to, the answer isn’t you, your effort, or your actions.  The answer is resting and trusting in the power and the grace of God.

Pastor Justin

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Jun 06

Internet Famous

If you are a regular reader of this blog, attend Westlake Baptist, or know me personally; then you are aware that I am a sports fan.  It comes from being raised in a sport’s house and playing sports for the majority of my life.  I see so many parallels between sports and the Christian life, especially Christian leadership.  While I don’t watch a lot of basketball, I did like many millions of people tune in for at least a little bit of the NBA Finals Game 1 last week.  At the end of regulation time (the end of the 4th quarter), a very bizarre play transpired.  A player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, JR Smith, got a rebound in front of his own basket with the score tired and only 4.7 seconds left.  Instead of shooting the ball quickly, taking one dribble and shooting, or calling a timeout; Mr. Smith dribbled the ball up towards half court.  The result was a desperate attempt to throw the ball up by a teammate that had no chance of going in, therefore, sending the game into overtime.  It was absolutely a gaffe by Mr. Smith.  Of course the tv cameras caught Mr. Smith’s teammate, Lebron James’ reaction.  James’ expression and hand gesture instantly made its way onto social media in the form of many memes.  Since then there have been many other things said and done in making fun of JR Smith and his blunder that very possibly cost his team a win in Game 1.  I say all of this to say, none of this is really the point.  The point is how JR Smith was treated by people.  Did he mess up?  Absolutely he did.  He has since then, somewhat admitted to it.  Was Lebron’s reaction funny in a still photo?  Yea, I have to admit it really was.  Did at least 70 million viewers around the world see the play?  Unfortunately for JR Smith, yes they did.  Did JR Smith deserve everything he had said, wrote, and printed about him?  Absolutely not!

You see behind those jokes, memes, articles, and segments on talk radio is a person, JR Smith.  Anyone who has ever played a sport, if they are being honest, as at one time or another messed up.  But even if you haven’t played a sport, have you ever done something goofy or what others might call dumb?  Sure we have.  At times I think, if doing something less than intelligent was a college degree program, I would have my doctorate degree ten times over by now.  For what it’s worth, JR Smith has handled himself well in the face of all of this.  He hasn’t shied away from the cameras or media interviews.  And let’s be honest, it would have been real easy to want to have disappeared after that, and especially after Cleveland lost Game 2 a couple nights later.  But what if your momentary, cranial flatulence was caught on live tv, and see by 70 million plus people?  What if when you woke up the next day, your social media feed was full of memes with your picture or your teammates picture making fun of you?  May we all remember Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7).

Let’s remember that there is a person who is the backside of these jokes.  A person with feelings.  A person who was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).  A person loved by God, died for by God, and a person God desires to save and have a relationship with.  We don’t become bigger people by putting others down.  Let us remember the words of that great theologian, Thumper’s mom (from Bambi in case you missed the reference), “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  How different would I world be if instead of beating up on those who mess up, we found ways to encourage one another?  As a Christian, this is the way the Lord Jesus told us to be, and there can never be an excuse to do otherwise.

Today’s Challenge: Find someone to encourage today, and take the time to encourage them.

Pastor Justin

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May 22

Even Dogs Get The Crumbs

In Mark 7 there is an interesting miracle that is recorded.  It is interesting, not because Jesus cast out a demon, but rather because of the exchange between Jesus and the woman.  The text is found in Mark 7:24-30.

Jesus has just taught on what defiles a person (Mark 7:1-23).  In doing so he has denounced the Pharisees.  After teaching on true defilement, Jesus again goes against the tradition of the elders.  This time he goes outside of Palestine to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  Jesus and His disciples are clearly seeking some rest.  He tries to hide in a house, but there was no such luck.  A Gentile woman comes to Him and asks that He cast out a demon that has possessed her daughter.  It is here that we see the interesting exchange.  After having asked Jesus to deliver her daughter, Jesus seemingly responds in a callous way by saying, “Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.”  The woman, undeterred, responds, “Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”

It is important to know here that Jesus is not specifically calling this woman or her daughter a dog, even though it was a common Jewish title for Gentiles.  Jesus here is testing the woman’s faith.  This woman had two very big cultural strikes against her at this time.  First, she as a Gentile.  Jesus clearly says that He has come to the Jews.  This is of course in fulfilling Scripture that “salvation is of the Jews.”  The second thing against her was the fact she was a woman.  Women in that society were looked down upon.  Yet we see in Jesus’ actions that the Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles, and that all people have the same sin problem, and need the same Savior.  This is why Paul would later right that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, male or female.  Paul was saying that God sees us all the same, that we all have the same problem, and that the solution is the same for everyone.  Jesus’ first response to this woman wasn’t callous.  Rather it was Jesus stating who He came to (the Jews-children) as an acknowledgment of Israel’s special relationship with God.  What we see from the woman is incredible humility and faith.

She demonstrates faith by coming to Jesus in the first place.  Even though she was a Gentile, she still believed that Jesus could heal her daughter.  Her faith was strong enough to ignore the cultural stigmas that were against her, and still come seeking Jesus for help.  Are we that desperate for Jesus?  Are we willing to risk ridicule and maybe even rejection from people to see Jesus do something in our life?  The woman displays great humility because she doesn’t argue with Jesus about Israel’s relationship with God.  She says, “Yes, Lord.”  She didn’t put the Jews down simply so she could have her daughter healed.  She wasn’t presumptuous about who she was.  She knew she was a Gentile woman, but she still had the faith to trust that God could heal her daughter.  Again, what about us?  Do we want what we want so bad that we will do whatever it takes, including put others down to get what we want?  Do we have a sense of entitlement?

Faith and humility go hand in hand.  Humility acknowledges who we are and our own weaknesses.  While faith says, “I can’t, but God can.”  That is why in James 4 it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  We must first see clearly who we are, before we will ever look in faith to God to help us.  Because of the woman’s humility and faith, Jesus healed her daughter.  What do you need God to do in your life?  Are you humble enough to admit that you can’t fix whatever the problem is?  Do you have faith that God can?

Pastor Justin

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May 16

Standing Strong

On Sunday mornings at Westlake Baptist we have been going through the Gospel of Mark since Easter Sunday.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that I have enjoyed the time of study, and I have found God challenging me personally on a lot of things.  This past week, I preached out of Mark 6.  Specifically we focused in on Jesus calling and commissioning the disciples to go out and preach the Gospel.  However, there is another story in that chapter that fascinated me.  It is the story of King Herod trying to figure out who Jesus was.

This section of Mark’s Gospel begins with the phrase, “King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.”  There was this traveling Jewish preacher who had stirred everyone up and got them talking about the things He said and did.  Jesus had created such a ruckus with His ministry that even the king had heard about him.  I know this is a very different time that we are living in, but I am sure of this; President Trump has never heard of, nor is he aware of the pastor of Westlake Baptist Church.  That isn’t a knock on the President.  It is a fact, that he has bigger and more pressing matters to tend to, and I’m just not that important.  But here, king Herod has heard of Jesus and is hearing reports from people on what Jesus is saying and doing as He travels around from town to town.  There is something about Jesus that strikes fear in Herod’s heart.  So much so that Herod is curious about what people are saying about Jesus, and who do they think He is.  The first report that Herod gets is someone says, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead.  That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”  I’m pretty sure that Herod didn’t hear anything else, because this was Herod’s worst nightmare.  So much so, that Herod is convinced that this is in fact a resurrected John the Baptist.  Why would this be a problem, if in fact John the Baptist had been resurrected?  Mark does a good job in recounting Herod’s relationship with John the Baptist in Mark 6:17-29.  Here is a condensed version.

Herod was having an inappropriate relationship wit his brother’s wife.  John the Baptist came to Herod at one point and told him that what he was doing was wrong and that he needed to stop it.  Herod doesn’t like it but sees fit only to put John the Baptist in prison, but Herodias (the woman in question) certainly cared.  In fact in Mark 6:19 it says that she held a grudge against John the Baptist and wanted him killed.  One evening at a later point in time, she would get her wish granted.  It was Herod’s birthday.  Herod wanted to show off his power and prestige and so he threw a good old fashioned birthday bash for himself and many others in his kingdom.  While they are partying and drinking too much, Herodias’ daughter comes in and starts to dance for Herod.  In his drunken stupor, Herod enjoys it a little more than he should and he asks the young woman what she would like him to give her.  He says he is willing to give her up to half of his kingdom.  She goes and tells this to her mother.  Herodias being opportunistic tells her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  When she goes and tells this to Herod, he is afraid, but he grants her wish.  So Jesus is scaring Herod because Herod think this is the prophet that he put to death come back to get his revenge.  As we like to ask on Sunday mornings, so why does any of this matter to us today?

There are a few lessons we can learn from this story.

  • Stand strong for what is right.  John the Baptist knew his message could get him in a lot of trouble with king Herod.  But John the Baptist had long before decided to honor God with his life. He was a prophet, and he was going to tell the truth no matter what happened.  We need courage of conviction in America today.  We need men and women who will stand on the truth and proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).  Speaking the truth will not make you popular with people, but it will glorify your Father who is in heaven.
  • Guard your life.  There are temptations literally around every corner, and if we aren’t careful we will fall right into sin.  Herod compromised with marriage, he compromised later with giving in Herodias’ request, and he lived in fear that it would come back to get him.  If we guard our heart, then we will have no reason to fear what others find out about us.
  • Sin will find us out.  Moses in giving the Law to the nation of Israel said in Numbers 32:23, “Be sure of this, your sin will find you out.”  We can hide it for a while.  But if we don’t allow God to deal with it privately, then we will get exposed publicly.
  • There is grace available.  Herod messed up repeatedly, and he was living in fear.  I wonder how many people in America can say they are in the same place right now?  If so, here is the good news.  Jesus wasn’t John the Baptist resurrected to get even with Herod.  Jesus is the Savior who had come to call and redeem Herod to believe in Him, be forgiven of his sins, and have a relationship with God.  The same is true for you today.  Don’t mistake God’s grace and the lack of judgment on your life right now for God not caring about the sin in your life.  Don’t run from it and don’t hide it.  Rather, confess it and receive God’s grace.  I promise you this, if God can forgive a sinner like me, I know He will forgive a sinner like you, if you confess and repent of your sin and trust in Him.

I will close this blog with one of my favorite verses, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).  There is no one alive today who has sinned so much that the grace of God cannot overcome and forgive that sin.  If you would like to talk about what this means or what it looks like to trust Jesus Christ, I hope you will reach out to us either here on the blog, on Facebook (search Westlake Baptist Church), or e-mail us at westlakebc@gmail.com.  We would love to tell you how God’s amazing grace saved a wretch like us.

Pastor Justin

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May 08

No Selfies With Bears!

I read a very strange and very sad story this morning.  The headline was, “Man mauled to death trying to take self with a bear.”  Go ahead and admit it, if you saw that headline you would click on it as well.  The story goes like this, the man was returning from a wedding, got out to use the bathroom, saw an injured bear, he decides to take a selfie with it, and the bear kills him.  That is bad enough, but what really caught my eye was a little further down in the story. According to the Indian newspaper, The Hindustan Times, there were witnesses to this tragedy.  And the most shocking part about it was this line from the newspaper reporter, “bystanders were busy shooting this incident on their mobile phones instead of trying to rescue him.”  The report goes on to say that only one person tried to ward the bear off with  a stick.  Only one person tried to help this man, the rest wanted to record it on their phones!  I have several feelings about the man who tried to take a selfie with a bear, but I will leave those alone for now.  Because my true outrage and frustration is with those bystanders who did nothing except film a man’s death.  But this story also got me to thinking about the state of Christianity today.

In the Gospel of John there is a conversation that Jesus has with His disciples.  The conversation is about the fact that there are many people who still need to hear the Gospel and be saved.  Jesus says in John 4:35, “Do you not say, there are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”  Jesus there is using a common illustration for His disciples about farming.  A farmer tills the soil, plants his crops, and waters his crops.  The farmer has to wait until the crops are ready to be harvested.  Yet, Jesus is telling His disciples that they don’t have to wait to preach the Gospel and see people saved.  There are many who are willing to hear the Gospel and God is drawing them now to salvation.  Jesus’ words to His disciples was this, get busy sharing the Gospel because people need it, and many are ready to receive it.  In another time, Jesus sent out 70 disciples to preach the Gospel.  In Luke 10:2 Jesus says, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send more laborers into His harvest.”  Again, Jesus is emphasizing the overwhelming need of people to hear the Gospel and be saved.  Jesus says we should pray that the Father moves in the lives of others who will feel the call to share the Gospel because there are so many people who need to hear it.

Then there is the flip side of this.  It is found in 1 Corinthians.  The apostle Paul had founded the church in the city of Corinth.  It was a church he loved and prayed for.  Yet, word came to him that they were having a lot of problems.  There was a lot of fussing and fighting in that church, they were suing each other, the “haves” were flaunting what they had in front of the “have nots.”  It was a complete mess in Corinth.  So Paul spends the first 11 chapters of the book trying to biblically correct their corrupt behavior.  At the end of chapter 12 Paul says, “and now I will show you a more excellent way.”  Then he immediately launches in 1 Corinthians 13, which is commonly called the love chapter.  Paul then writes about orderly service and how a worship service should be done before reaching the climax of the book.  The climax of 1 Corinthians is chapter 15.  It is the single greatest chapter on the reality of the resurrection and why it matters.  And about half way through this chapter Paul writes this, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”  Paul is talking about the greatness of the resurrection, why it matters, and how it should shape how the Corinthian believers should live and then he drops the hammer on them.  He basically says, you have the greatest story ever to tell, the story that could change people’s lives just like it changed you, and you aren’t even telling the story to people.  I have to wonder if the apostle Paul was alive today, would he say something similar to many churches?  Too many Christians are like the bystanders in the story, they just want to sit back and observe what is happening.  Undoubtedly they talked about how tragic it was that the man was mauled to death. Some probably thought the man was foolish for trying to take a selfie with a bear, just like many in the church complain about how bad society has become.  But at the end of the day, they did nothing about it and too many in the church are doing the same!  We have been given an incredible opportunity to share the Gospel with more people than ever.  With social media, blogs, podcasts, easy world travel with airplanes; we have all that we need to share the Gospel.  Yet if the numbers are accurate (and we have no reason to believe they aren’t), the Gospel is getting shared less now than previous years.  I want to appeal to all Christians, beginning with myself, this must not continue.  We must get off the sidelines and get busy sharing the amazing, life-changing, life-transforming truth of the Gospel.  May we be those laborers that Jesus spoke of in Luke 10, and may we pray for more laborers to join us as we share with the world the glorious truth, Jesus saves!

Pastor Justin

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May 02

Walking Worthy

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he talks a lot about what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus.  In chapter 4, Paul talks about the church and its witness internal and externally as evidence of our faith or lack there of.  The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

In this verse Paul says we need to rightly identify who we are when he says, “the prisoner of the Lord.”  Paul is saying that he belongs to Jesus Christ.  Paul is not a moral free agent free to live and do as he pleases.  He says the same thing in a few different ways in other areas of the New Testament.  For example in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Paul writes, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, you were bought with a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.”  Then in 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says we are “ambassadors for Christ.”  As a Christian, we must remember that we belong to God and therefore we are called to represent Him in all that we say and do.

Paul then in verse 1 says that he “beseeches you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called.”  That is Paul saying, because you belong to Christ, you need to live like Christ.  The word “worthy” that Paul uses here means appropriately or as in a manner that honors and is honorable.  So to “walk worthy” means to live a life that is honorable and honors the One we are representing.  In verses 2 and 3 Paul defines how we can live a worthy life for Jesus.  He uses words such as lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing, and unified.  So for a Christian to live a live that honors God we are to be humble, gentle, patience, loving, accepting of one another, and we are to have a desire to be unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But how does Paul know, how do we know that living like this will honor God?  We know it because it perfectly describes the life of Jesus as revealed in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:2-8 can be broken down into two categories.  The first is prescriptive, that is describing what we should do.  The second part is descriptive, and that is Paul explaining the why of the first part.  The two parts of this passage are tied together by verse 5 in Philippians 2 which says, “let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”  So verse 5 bridges the prescriptive section with the descriptive section.  How did Paul describe the mind of Christ?  We see it in verses 6-8.  Paul says that Jesus was humble, selfless, sacrificial, and obedient.  Even though Jesus was and is God, He still humbled Himself in submission to the Father’s will to come to the earth, die on a cross for sinful mankind, and rise from the dead three days later.  He did this, not because we wouldn’t do it, but because we couldn’t do it.  The God-man who had every right to be served, instead came to serve the world.  And Jesus didn’t just do it when it was easy or just those who loved Him.  Jesus walked in selfless humility all the way to the point of the most excruciating and humiliating form of death, crucifixion.  So then we look back at verses 2-4 and we can see Paul calling us to live by these same attributes.  We see unity in verse 2, selflessness and humility in verse 3, and sacrificial in verse 4.

Therefore, if I am going to be considered by God worthy to be called a Christian then those three things should characterize my life.  In a day and age in which it is easy to say we are a Christian, and when it costs us relatively nothing to identify ourselves as Christian, the question then becomes, does my life give honor to God?  Can I actually call myself a disciple of Jesus’ according to how I’m living?  Here are some questions to help us think and pray through this.

  • Am I humble?  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  Am I willing to take a back seat, to do things and not get any recognition for it?  Am I willing to not do what I want for the sake of others?
  • Am I gentle?  Again this doesn’t mean weakness.  In fact, meekness is strength under control.  When someone upsets me and I want to give them a piece of my mind, do I instead give a soft, well-measured response (see Prov. 15:1)?  Another way I put it is this, when I speak am I gas or water?  Do I ignite and fan the flames or do I cool it down?
  • Am I patient?  This goes along with the next phrase Paul uses in Ephesians 4:2 of forbearing one another.  To forbear means to put up with.  Am I someone who strives to help those who are new to the faith or do I get upset because they just don’t seem to get it?
  • Am I a unifier?  We live in a divisive world.  There is hatred, bitterness, anger, and discord everywhere we look.  Do we fall into it ourselves?  When people hear us speak do they hear us constantly talking negative about others or a situation? When they encounter us on social media, do they readily know what we are against or do they know what we stand for?  We need to remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Mt. 5:9).  Do we bring people closer to God and each other or do we push them further apart?

May this passage cause us to praise God for His great love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness towards us in that we don’t always walk in a worthy manner.  And may it call us to prayer asking God for His help in allowing us to walk in a worthy manner.

Pastor Justin

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Apr 23

A Dog Named Odie

Our family has a dog named Odie.  Odie is an interesting dog to say the least.  One night he starts barking incessantly.  I am thinking that he probably needs to go outside.  However, just a few seconds outside and it becomes very evident that he didn’t have to go.  He wanted to track something outside.  Now this is probably a good time to mention that Odie is a dachshund, not a retriever.  But he tries his best to track things outside.  After getting off the porch, he immediately puts his nose to the ground and starts tracking.  Now I was able to see what he was going after.  However, Odie was unable to see it because he kept his head down the whole time.  We spent about 10 minutes outside, and though I could see the cat, Odie never saw him. What is the point of telling this story? The point is I think sometimes we as Christians can be like Odie.  We can focus so much on what we are doing, that we miss seeing Jesus.  But how does this happen?

I think it happens in a variety of ways.  But the root cause of it all is the same.  We measure who we are and our importance by what we do.  That is to say we have an identity crisis.  If your worth to Christ is measured by what you do for Him, then you will be on a never-ending treadmill of ups and downs. Some days things just seem to click. We get up before the alarm goes off, and we get right to our quiet time and prayer time.  Then there are days when every thing seems to go wrong.  We oversleep because we set our alarm clock for p.m. instead of a.m.  The kids get up earlier than normal or they just seem to fuss and fight with each other and they make it impossible to get alone with God.  When we don’t know who we are in Christ, we can believe that we have somehow let God down or that we are a failure.  Or there can be times in which we fight temptation and overcome it through the power of God, and we think that God loves us so much right now because of it.  But let a temptation get the best of us, and suddenly we are a failure because we sinned, and so there is no way that God could possibly love us.  I wonder how many of you reading this right now can identify with this roller coaster of emotions?  Again, I want to emphasize that it is because you are suffering from an identity crisis right now.  You believe that your worth to God is tied to your obedience to God.  So I want to say this, you cannot do anything to make God love you more than He already does, and you can’t do anything to make God love you any less than He already does.  How do we know this?  Because of the truth of Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus thought we were worth dying for when we were sinners!  So if He loved us that much when we were sinners, how could He love us anymore now?  Should we be obedient to God?  Absolutely. In fact, Jesus says our obedience to Him shows our love for Him.  But don’t think that our love for God affects His love for us.

Pastor Justin

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